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Sri Lanka to gazette COVID-19 laws; violators could face six-month prison term

Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka is set to gazette into law the hygiene and physical distancing guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19, Health Minister Pavithra Wanniarachchi said.

The gazette notification, to be issued by tomorrow, will enable the courts to impose “severe punishments” on those who violate Sri Lanka’s quarantine regulations, the minister told reporters yesterday.

The punishments will include arrests without warrant and a six-month prison term, she said.

According to Wanniarachchi, the gazette will make wearing face-masks in public spaces mandatory by law. Maintaining a minimum physical distance of one metre in crowded places will also be made compulsory, and establishments will be required by law to check the temperature of those who enter their premises.

“Those who violate these health provisions in areas declared as virus-infected areas can be penalized with a maximum fine of Rs 10,000 or six-month imprisonment or both,” Minister said.

However, the Public Health Inspectors’ (PHI) union in July demanded that the government gazette the health guidelines in order to control the situation in the country.

PHI Union Chairman Upul Rohana said in July that the government had failed to gazette a single law to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic under the quarantine act, barring a gazette pertaining to the cremation of COVID-19 deaths.

With no regulation or law to manage the situation in the country, Rohana said, the general public quickly forgot about the pandemic once the first wave was over. “They went back to the way things were even before COVID-19 became a global pandemic,” he added.

The Minuwangoda cluster that began after a 39-year-old woman working at a Brandix apparel factory in Minuwangoda tested positive for COVID-19 on October 4 has risen to 1,307 as at 6 am this morning, where 1,036 were staff members working at Brandix and 231 were family members or close contacts. (Colombo/Oct12/2020)

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